Probiotics and Hair: The Growing Trend

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM August 11, 2020 0 Comments

Probiotics and Hair: The Growing Trend

Hair health is affected by a lot of things, including your stresses and the food you eat. Recently, breakthrough studies suggest that probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms, may promote hair growth. 

Better digestive health, clear skin, and now, healthier hair - there's nothing that probiotics that can't do. If you're looking for something that can help you achieve beautiful, stronger strands, then read on to learn more about probiotics – and how they can make this possible. 

Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Connection

Probiotics are live microorganisms that bring about benefits when they colonize the gut. It may include different species, such as Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, to name a few. These good microbes can be found in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, yogurt, and kombucha. Select supplements carry these beneficial bacteria as well. 

How probiotics affect one’s health is reflected in the gut-brain-skin connection theory, a mechanism proposed by Drs. John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury. These pioneering dermatologists proposed that emotional disturbances, as in the case of anxiety or depression, can disrupt the normal gut microbiome. This then leads to increased gut permeability – in layman terms, a ‘leaky gut.’ When this happens, bacteria and their metabolites seep into the circulation. The result is systemic inflammation, which can trigger a variety of skin disorders such as eczema, acne, to name a few. 

Good Skin = Good Hair

So how are probiotics involved with good hair health? Remember, your hair grows out of your scalp – a piece of skin that covers your head. Like most skin areas, it has a microbiome – a community of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi that thrive harmoniously on the scalp. 

The right balance of scalp microbes makes it conducive for healthy hair growth. But when it’s disturbed – say, when you’re anxious, stressed, sick, or when you apply chemicals or medications on the area - hair problems can occur.

Take the case of acne, where there is an increase in sebum production. This is a perfect growth medium for Propionibacterium acnes, a microbe that is normally present on the skin. Excessive sebum helps the bacteria to proliferate, thereby leading to pimples.  

The same mechanism is seen in hyperseborrhea, where there is increased sebum production in the scalp. It can lead to pain, itching, and eventually, hair loss. 

Chronic hair diseases, on the other hand, may develop due to inflammatory reactions brought about by changes in the scalp flora. This can be seen in alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that results in hair loss. 

How Probiotics Can Help with Hair Health

Probiotics bring more than just good immunity and digestive health. It can also address issues that may lead to hair problems. 

  • Stress 

Stress is just one of the many factors that affect hair health. A University of Hamburg study has shown that stress can damage hair and inhibit growth. Taking the gut-brain-skin axis into account, probiotics can help normalize the gut flora – and decrease stress and anxiety along the way. 

  • Biotin Deficiency

Another cause of hair loss is poor nutrition, with an emphasis on biotin deficiency. This important vitamin is normally produced by the gut bacteria in sufficient amounts. However, when the microbiome is disturbed, levels dramatically drop down – resulting in hair loss. With that being said, probiotic intake is important in restoring normal biotin levels in the body – so hair growth is kept uninterrupted. 

  • Pollution

Pollution can also affect hair growth, according to a study published in the International Journal of Trichology. According to the researchers, pollutants bring about oxidative stress that can affect scalp health. Probiotics can help with this matter as they may help reduce the oxidative stresses in hair cells – which are usually brought about by pollution. 

Probiotics for your Hair 

  • Lactobacillus reuteri 
    1. reuteri is an organism successfully isolated by the microbiologist Gerhard Reuter. Ever since it was isolated in the 1980s, it has been a favorite specimen amongst researchers and academicians alike. That's because studies show that it may bring about many health benefits. 

    For one, it may help fight infections, thanks to the anti-microbial substance ‘reuterin’ that it produces. Additionally, it may help in the management of colic, diarrhea, necrotizing enterocolitis, and peptic ulcers. As for dental health, L. reuteri may help protect the mouth from tooth decay-causing germs.

    Recently, a study published the Journal of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity has shown that it may help boost the hormone Oxytocin in the body. Also known as the love hormone, oxytocin can promote energy metabolism, social bonding, and most importantly, wound healing.

    So how does this relate to your crowning glory? Well, L. reuteri brings about a cascade of mechanisms that may promote hair health.

    As it has been mentioned, L. reuteri can stimulate oxytocin, which can help improve wound healing. As a result, inflammation is lessened, while the process of fibrosis is hastened. Fibrosis, known to many as scarring, is the body’s way to repair wounds. This involves the action of fibroblasts, cells that produce the collagen necessary for healing – and hair health too.

    To make the long story short, a probiotic supplement can help boost collagen levels in the body. This is important not only for the hair, but for the skin, ligaments, and tendons as well. 

    Here are some of the ‘mane’ benefits of collagen: 

    • It can provide the amino acid proline. This helps build up keratin, a protein that makes hair appear fuller and shinier.
    • Collagen is an antioxidant that can fight off free radicals, substances that can damage the hair follicles. Its antioxidant properties may even help slow the 'graying' process that comes with age. 
    • It may reduce the hair thinning that occurs with aging. The body produces less and less amount of collagen over time. As a result, hair thinning is more apparent as you grow older. 

    With that being said, if you want to have healthy hair, you need to maintain high levels of collagen in the body. L. reuteri can help you achieve that – and so much more! 

  • Lactobacillus plantarum
    1. plantarum is another probiotic that you may help with the hair wellness. Apart from its antioxidative and anti-bacterial properties, it may help resolve inflammation in the gut - leading to the faster repair of the gut barrier.

    Apart from its digestive benefits, L. plantarum may be good for the hair as well. According to a study, it helps produce vascular endothelial growth factor. This element is necessary for the proliferation of cells - as well as capillary (vessel) formation - both of which were shown to promote better hair growth. 

    Results show that hairless mice given L. plantarum scored 9 points on the hair growth scale, which corresponded to a hair growth rate of 90-100%. When compared to Minoxidil, an established hair loss drug, L. plantarum is deemed superior as the former only stimulated 80-89% hair regrowth. 

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
    1. rhamnosus is another probiotic that’s beneficial for the gut and the skin. More than just reducing the symptoms of diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and atopic dermatitis, it may help address some hair problems as well. 

    For one, it is useful against eczema. This skin condition can affect your scalp, and as such could lead to patchy hair loss. With its anti-inflammatory effects, L. rhamnosus may also help combat conditions such as folliculitis, another problem that leads to temporary hair loss. 

     Apart from the above-mentioned benefits, probiotic-rich yogurt may also hold the key to better hair growth. A study showed that mice, which were fed with yogurt for a month, demonstrated improved fur luster improved in as short as 7 days. 

    Results show that these yogurt-fed mice also had more follicles in the active growth phase (anagen) of hair. As expected, these mice had more robust hair growth compared to those from the control group. 

    True enough, probiotics bring countless benefits to the body – from top to toe indeed. If you are looking for a way to make your hair healthier sans the expensive salon products or drugs, then you should consider eating probiotic-rich foods or taking probiotic supplements right away.